A dilation and curettage procedure (D&C procedure) is a surgical procedure used to remove a fetus after a miscarriage that has occured after the first trimester. It's estimated, as many as 25 percent of pregnancies will result in miscarriage; however, only 50 percent of women who have a miscarriage will have to undergo the D&C procedure. This procedure is needed when the miscarriage has occured after 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The D&C procedure is often conducted as an outpatient procedure, but under some circumstances it can be an inpatient procedure. A sedative is used to help the patient relax and general anesthesia is used in most cases. Antibiotics are administered to reduce the risk for infection. During the procedure, a narrow instrument is inserted into the cervix to allow other surgical instruments to enter the uterus with ease. As the cervix is held open by a speculum, a vacuum device is used to remove the contents of the uterus. The lining of the uterus is then scraped, if needed.
Although the D&C procedure is considered to be safe, there are risks associated with the procedure, which include adverse reactions to the medications used during the procedure. Heavy bleeding or hemorrhaging can occur as well. Other complications include infection of the uterus or other pelvic organs, puncture of the uterus or laceration and weakening of the cervix. It’s not uncommon for uterus or cervix scarring to occur. Rarely, the procedure will be incomplete, in which case another D&C procedure will be needed.
After the D&C procedure, recovery is usually quick. Pain medications are often prescribed to manage any pain that may occur. Most women are able to resume normal activities within 24 hours of the procedure. Painful cramping can last up to 24 hours after the D&C procedure is conducted. Vaginal bleeding can last up to two weeks, as well as light cramping. It’s recommended nothing is inserted into the vagina for at least two weeks after the procedure has been conducted, this includes the use of tampons and sexual activity.